Help Call Center Supervisors Succeed By Providing Quality Training

Just because someone is a good call center agent doesn’t mean he or she will make a good supervisor. And the last thing any manager wants to do is to take excellent agents and turn them into ineffective supervisors. Yet it happens too often. However, the fault is usually not in the selection of agents or their advancement potential. More often than not the problem resides in the supervisor training or lack thereof. Poor supervisor education and on-the-job supervisor training have doomed many a promising candidate to failure. Don’t repeat those errors. Here are six points to follow when training supervisors: 1) Watch and Learn Doesn’t Work: In too many cases an eager supervisor trainee is simply told to just “go sit by this person.” No formal training is available or provided. Management holds the expectation that the trainee will somehow learn via osmosis. Another name for this technique is job shadowing, but following a supervisor around doesn’t make for a successful protégé. True, some supervisor trainees encounter this training approach and succeed, but their success doesn’t come from this training method but in spite of it. 2) Don’t Expect Your Best Supervisor to Train: A good supervisor doesn’t necessarily make for a good trainer of supervisors. While this can occur, it’s the exception more often than the norm. The best educators don’t necessarily need to know how to do the work (though it does help); what they need to know is how to effectively teach someone how to do the work. A background in education rises as a more important credential than having been a successful supervisor. Of course if you can find both traits in a trainer then it’s a delightful bonus. 3) Use a Classroom Approach: Though smaller call centers, say fewer than one hundred seats, seldom have a need to train multiple supervisors at one time, a classroom environment is still the best approach. It’s just that for smaller operations classroom training allows for one-on-one interaction. This is an ideal ratio, at least as far as effective training is concerned. Call centers with one hundred seats or more often need to train multiple supervisors at one time. In this case, the classroom approach already in place merely needs an expanded scope. In both cases, classroom training implies a standard curriculum, professional teaching resources, helpful review guides, and maybe even progress tests. Also provide a mix of practical application and implementation along with the academic aspect of training. 4) Make Training Task Oriented: The technical aspect of supervisor training must be considered. Supervisors have a wide array of software tools and resources that they need to master in order to perform their jobs with excellence. Don’t assume they will figure it out. Teach them to use these tools correctly. 5) Reinforce People Skills: Successful agents already have good people skills, but as supervisors they need to direct this ability inward to cover other agents, as well as outward to be customer facing. While this is generally an easy transference to make, don’t presume it will automatically happen. Ensure that it will occur by including it as part of the standard training. 6) Teach Numbers: Supervisors need to understand how to use the numbers generated by the call center system reports. They must know how to apply these stats to agent reviews, goal setting, and merit increases. While many supervisors tend to struggle with numbers, they still need to possess a rudimentary understanding of their application in the call center environment. Consider these six items as you develop (or overhaul) your supervisor training program. When you do, you will see an increased number of supervisors succeed and not wash out. The results will be supervision that is more effective, a more stable supervisor pool, and supervisors that are more successful. As a result you will need to train their replacements less frequently.   Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider and consultancy that provides custom training solutions for all levels of staff in the call center and telephone answering service industry. Contact Janet at or 800-901-7706 to learn more about arranging specific training for your organization.Peter Lyle DeHaan  is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.